The needs of carers: a comparison between eating disorders and schizophrenia

  • Holmer Graap
  • Stefan Bleich
  • Florian Herbst
  • Charlotte Scherzinger
  • Yvonne Trostmann
  • Johannes Wancata
  • Martina de ZwaanEmail author



This pilot study compares the level of distress and the need for support between carers of patients with anorexia (AN) and bulimia nervosa (BN) and carers of patients with schizophrenia.


Thirty-two carers of patients suffering from AN and BN and 30 carers of patients with schizophrenia filled out the general health questionnaire (GHQ-12) and the burden inventory (BI). In addition, they were interviewed with a semi-structured research interview, the carers’ needs assessment (CNA), to assess relevant problem areas as well as the need for helpful interventions. Patients with an eating disorder were interviewed with the eating disorder examination (EDE) and patients with schizophrenia with the positive and negative syndrome scale (PANSS) to assess the severity of the disorder.


The mean duration of illness was 5.3 years in the patients with eating disorders and 7.3 years in the patients with schizophrenia. Most of the carers were mothers or partners. In the CNA we found high numbers of problems as well as high numbers of unmet needs for interventions. The most frequently mentioned problem areas in all groups of carers were “disappointment caused by the chronic course of the illness, concerns about the patient’s future” and “problems in communication with the patient”. The most frequently reported need for support in all groups was “counseling and support by a professional”. Carers of patients with BN reported a significantly lower number of problems and of needs for interventions compared to the carers of patients with AN and schizophrenia. Also in the BI and the GHQ-12 we found significantly lower total scores in carers of patients with BN. Carers of patients with AN and schizophrenia did not differ significantly in any of the assessments. The severity or duration of illness of the patients did not correlate with the carers’ burden or needs.


Carers of patients with an eating disorder and carers of patients with schizophrenia are burdened with similar problems and have high levels of unmet needs which are usually not addressed in clinical practice. Carers of anorectic patients have higher levels of difficulties in various areas compared to carers of bulimic patients and did not differ from carers of patients with schizophrenia.


carers needs anorexia nervosa bulimia nervosa schizophrenia 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Holmer Graap
    • 1
  • Stefan Bleich
    • 2
  • Florian Herbst
    • 1
  • Charlotte Scherzinger
    • 1
  • Yvonne Trostmann
    • 1
  • Johannes Wancata
    • 3
  • Martina de Zwaan
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Dept. of Psychosomatic Medicine and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital ErlangenErlangenGermany
  2. 2.Dept. of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyUniversity Hospital ErlangenErlangenGermany
  3. 3.Dept. of Psychiatry and PsychotherapyMedical University of ViennaViennaAustria

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